Day Sixteen: Over the Henrys

Map Miles: today: 16.2/ total: 243.8

GPS Miles: today: 18.5/ total: 265.8

Today’s Miles Sponsored by: Diane,Vince

I was glad for the tent. Not just for the extra heat, but also the wind protection. Super strong wind last night. Still- I “slept” for a good 10 hours and felt amazing today. No headache at all, just some small sniffles. I’m very thankful for that, because today was not an easy day- it was Henrys Day!

The Henry Mountains are a small range-from what I can see just three main peaks and their associated foothills- but they’re tall with everything being over 10,500 feet. They were also the last area in the US to be mapped and surveyed by the UsGs. and they have a native herd of bison that roams the area. I was sad not to see them today.

The route goes over the South Summit of Mt Ellen at 11,400 feet. That’s higher than Mt Baker! I only had about 3,000 feet to do from camp, however it took a long long time to get to the top because of all the snow.

I dressed warmly today and set out with the summit in mind. The first 5 miles up to Bull Creek Pass ( only 1000 feet shy of the summit) were on jeep roads. They started out nice and dry, but soon looked like this:

The summit is in the top left.

And then more like this:

So postholey!!

The snow was worst in the trees where it wasn’t as compacted and also tended to be more sloped. In the open sections I tended to be able to walk on the crusty surfaces just fine, however in the trees I would be postholing knee deep.
The walking was also tiring! Walking on snow (and walking uphill for that matter) uses a completely different set of muscles than I’d been previously using.
From Bull Creek Pass to the summit the first third of the climb was the worst. The snow was steep and postholey. At least once I just fell forward onto my knees. But I persisted and got around a bend and the levels plummeted drastically. Above the trees, last half mile to the summit was spectacular the snow was nearly gone!

Nearly there and (almost) snow free!

And then finally the view. What a view! Back to the east an extended red Mesa and all the way back to the La Sals. To the west a broken landscape of deep canyons butting up against the colorful waterpocket fold and ridges beyond. 

Panorama east

Panorama West

I sat up there for at least a half hour taking in the view. It was cold- but it was sunny and I didn’t want to take off too soon…. until the wind kicked in…cue time to go! The wind was forceful! As I traversed along the summit ridge it frequently nearly blew me off my feet- feet that were now little frozen iceblocks inside of my stiff shoes. I needed to take very careful steps down.

The summit ridge to the north

The summit ridge went slowly, but eventually i made my way down. Out of the snow. Out of the wind. Along the ridge above Sweetwater canyon I enjoyed the thawing out. By days end, nothing I had was still wet, which is pretty incredible considering how soaked my shoes were. It’s amazing what this desert sun can do. The descent completed, I rejoined the road system and began the climb up into Tarantula Mesa, passing a herd of deer along the way.

How many deer do you see?

It was getting late, but since the morning took so long getting up and over Mt Ellen I wanted to push a late into the evening. I was on roads and after a point they were mostly flat which went smoothly. My feet were running on empty though, so I pulled up at the first logical spot- a huge cattle spring and trough complex. The trough actually has good water in it, which I’ll be filling from tomorrow. At least I know they haven’t pooped in it.

Mmmmm fresh cattle water

Since I’m still pretty high in elevation, I decided to set the tent up again tonight. Sleep is overtaking me now. My body is tired. Full moon above. Third day completely alone. Solid effort and lots to be proud of today.

Moonlit tent night

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